In my new book on Artificial Intelligence for HR (debuted at #1 on the New and Noteworthy books on Amazon), the final chapter is dedicated to the future human skills of the workplace. As I worked through the research I realized there were some common themes that blended together across academic and industry research sources to highlight a handful of key soft skills that need to be prioritized in an automated workplace.

The most important skill of the future isn’t coding or technical in nature. It’s the soft skills that will matter.
–Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn

The Future Human Skills Model

In the research process my team and I identified five key skills that kept surfacing over and over again as critical differentiators in the “humans versus machines” future we’re inevitably moving towards. Those skills include:

  1. Creativity — the ability to come up with novel ideas and innovations
  2. Curiosity — being able to ask questions and seek new information
  3. Collaboration — working closely with others to solve problems together
  4. Compassion — taking time to care about the person beyond the interaction
  5. Critical Thinking — the ability to take ideas and apply them in practical contexts

future human soft skills modelSupporting Research

Research for these key skills comes from a ton of areas, but here are a few.

  • MIT’s research shows that key areas for teaching creativity include projects, peers, passion, and play. Each of these components maps to a skill: projects (build critical thinking, go beyond memorization), peers (collaboration with others), passion (compassion, creativity), and play (curiosity). Each of these areas is powerful in its own right, but collected together they offer a way to teach creativity and innovation, a key competitive edge humans have.
  • CLO magazine reports that the future of digital work is human in nature. For instance, the image below depicts key soft skills for frontline managers: coaching (compassion/collaboration), communication (collaboration), employee engagement (compassion, curiosity), business acumen (critical thinking), critical thinking, and emotional intelligence (compassion).
clo key manager soft skills

Source: CLO Media

These are just a few of the resources that support this research model, but it’s an example of how tightly interwoven those key skills are into the fabric of work. Business leaders need to be looking at ways to instill the 5 C’s into themselves to “future proof” against a more automated workplace. Why? Because every time work has been automated in the past, the resulting jobs and tasks have been more human in nature as we automate the less human aspects. These core human skills are important today, but they’ll matter even more in the future.

Additionally, we should be looking at ways to instill these components into the workforce. It’s always been hard to teach and measure soft skills, but that’s no excuse for getting caught flat-footed. We must look for ways to teach these core components to our teams and workforces in order to take advantage of the human qualities that make us different from the algorithms, bots, and other systems we’re relying on more and more each day.